CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Town Clerk Pat O'Donnell still has a week left helping residents from behind the counter in town hall, but Monday marked the last time she would fill the role of secretary at Town Board meetings.
O'Donnell is retiring at the end of the day Dec. 31 after working in town hall for 30 years; 23 of them in the elected position of town clerk. She has run for the office every two years since 1996 and won each time.
For many residents new to the town she is the first person they meet in an official capacity upon settling in the community. Her smiling face and easy-going manner are mainstays in a position that can sometimes get testy due to all the rules and regulations.
Monday's Town Board meeting was the last one of the year and though there had already been a retirement party and a town employee luncheon held for her, it was the board's time as an elected body to say goodbye.
Supervisor Philip Barrett spoke for the board during the opening minutes of the meeting when he thanked O'Donnell for all she's done for the town as well as the community through the years.
“Tonight is the last meeting for our beloved Town Clerk Pat O'Donnell. Pat's had a long and distinguished career with the town of Clifton Park and tonight is her last meeting,” Barrett said. “She has decided to retire, and we wish her nothing but the best in the future.”
Barrett went on to say he knew O'Donnell would continue to work hard to improve the town as she always had not only within the walls of town hall, or the confines of town government, but also among the many organizations in the community that she supports, advocates for, and works tirelessly to promote.
“You'll have more time to do the things you want to do; you've certainly earned them,” he said.
The meeting was a relatively short one with only a few items on the night's agenda. As she had done for more than 20 years, O'Donnell read the night's resolutions clearly, quickly, and completely before reading out the headings as preparation for the board discussion and its vote.
As she prepared to take the votes of the Town Board's five members one final time she paused for just a fraction of second. This time, however as she called out the board members' names her voice was noticeably softer, almost reflective of the situation.
The final vote authorizing the Clifton Park Baseball League to use a portion of the Clifton Common was not the last resolution of the night, however. Barrett and the board had one final resolution, which he read aloud.
Resolution 280 of 2019 was a brief recap of O'Donnell's time in Clifton Park and her years working in town government.
O’Donnell is a native of Mt. Vernon. She had been living outside Pittsburgh with her husband when he took a job change to Clifton Park 50 years ago. She began working for the town in the 1980s as a paid secretary for what was then the Parks and Recreation Commission, an advisory board to the Parks and Recreation Department. From there she became secretary for the Fire Advisory Board.
After taking a position of deputy town clerk in 1989, O'Donnell ran for town clerk upon the retirement of her predecessor Millie Peck in 1992.
“For over 30 years, Pat O'Donnell's smiling face has been the face of town hall greeting residents when they visited the town clerk's office for a license, permit, or even a question about a town service,” Barrett read. “Pat O'Donnell has been the standard of service with a warm welcome and a willingness to fulfill any request.”
After hearing the resolution read aloud and given a chance to speak the emotion of the moment crept into O'Donnell's voice as she spoke about the people she's worked alongside.
“I'd like to thank the residents for the last 30 years,” she said. “I think I laughed every day. I loved 99.9 percent of the job. The people I've got to work with have been great and the ones here tonight have been fantastic. This Town Board has been wonderful. I thank everyone for all the good words and commendations that have been given to me recently.”
After the meeting, O'Donnell described the retirement party as having been a wonderful reunion of people she hadn't seen for many years.
“I visit with people all day long in the town clerk's office and I will really miss that,” she said. “I'll miss greeting the people, talking with them, and hearing all the stories about what Clifton Park was like years ago. But it really is the people I'll miss most. You work in the town clerk's office all those years and you get to know them. You know them, their families, even their pets.”